The first Faculty Academy on Instructional Technology that I (Dave Ayersman) was involved with was in 1996 and it has been hosted annually since then at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. As I have changed positions throughout my career in higher education, I've continued to host the Faculty Academy at other institutions (West Virginia University, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and at now at New River). We've been annually hosting this very positive experience for faculty at New River since 2008.
The Faculty Academy purposefully occurs at the end of the academic year. It is a recap of what works and what doesn't work in the classroom from the perspective of faculty members who've just recently finished teaching for the year (so these experiences are still fresh in their minds and memories). Their stories and first-hand experiences result in a rich dialogue and sharing of ideas aimed at improving instruction.
The Academy began as an idea discussed among myself and some of the wonderful faculty and staff at UMW, shortly after I began working there in July 1995. The issue was "How can we best utilize technology as a tool for teaching and learning?". Research, best practices, and an abundance of literature portray many "solutions" for successfully integrating technology into teaching/learning. However, these somewhat generic ideas often lack the specific context and personal meaning to make them relevant to an instructor directly facing the challenge of educating students within the educational environment at any given college. We wanted to create a more personally meaningful experience for our instructors.
One thing that was quickly obvious to me when I arrived at Mary Washington College was that while some faculty were actively engaged with using technology in their teaching, many other faculty were not yet aware of this activity. There was no natural forum to promote the sharing of these ideas. So we created one. And we showcased the work that our faculty were doing, we listened to the ideas they offered, we invited some speakers to address particular topics of current interest, and we did it so well that we did it again, year after year. Proposals were reviewed so that presenters gained academic recognition for their presentations. Faculty were involved in various roles (since not everyone wishes to present and experience always ranges from novice to expert with any application of technology). We wanted to include the novices as well as the experts to create a cross-pollination of ideas and promote the use of instructional technology. And it worked! The Academy quickly grew beyond a local conference and included national and international participation as folks learned of our initiative through the web and through word of mouth.
The cost of hosting the Academy (food, badges, printed proceedings, gifts for presenters, and other items) was generally covered through corporate sponsorships. We approached the vendors we routinely dealt with and they were usually quite willing to make donations and many chose to provide a vendor booth to engage our participants directly.
Looking back, the concept of the Faculty Academy was a great idea and it was well executed but it took a number of folks working very effectively together to pull it off each year. Implementing this concept at New River has proven to be a challenge with the distances among campuses, low faculty participation, and in my opinion, a lack of support from our chief academic officer, deans, and many of our faculty who choose not to participate or attend.
Like any small conference, there are some logistical tasks involved that ultimately determine the success of the Academy. Some of those tasks include:
- Develop an interesting schedule to address current issues involving instructional technology.
- Include local educators who are engaged in innovative teaching methods.
- Make the event inclusive so that educators from other institutions are involved.
- Provide food.
- Publish the Call for Proposals widely to promote interest.
- Invite some known educators who are excellent presenters.
- Involve faculty as chairs and discussants so that even those not presenting are engaged.
- Offer some hands-on workshops.
- Provide technical support for every session to ensure that things run smoothly.
- Establish a three-member committee (with some instructional technology expertise) to review proposals; thus making this a refereed (blind reviewed) conference earning faculty recognition for their inclusion.
- Kindly encourage any proposals not accepted with recommendations for improvement and resubmission for the next Academy.
- Give something away (vendor donations work well).
- Make the event informal and fun so that it is truly a celebration of accomplishments and a sharing of ideas.
1. Showcase faculty achievements with instructional technology by providing them a forum to present their best teaching practices and engage colleagues in academic discussion.
2. Proposals should be reviewed to establish this event as a scholarship opportunity.
3. Inviting faculty to serve as session chairs and discussants will provide them with professional service opportunities and will result in greater participation.
1. The primary audience is our own New River faculty (both full-time and part-time).
2. It is important to have a majority of faculty involved as participants, presenters, discussants, and chairs (it counts as scholarship and service for them).
3. All campuses should be involved.
4. Invited sessions are helpful for “rounding out” the schedule and for establishing broader participation. A keynote speaker(s) is sometimes invited.
5. Hands-on training (3-hour sessions) for faculty are sometimes included.
6. There should be collaborative presentations between faculty and IT staff based on course development projects.
7. Key committees should be involved in planning and implementation of the event (Distance Education Advisory Committee, Curriculum Committee, etc.).
8. Other community colleges should be invited. Do they have similar events? Can some collaboration occur?
1. Events that occur during the academic semester and during the normal business day when faculty are teaching, often prove unsuccessful with very low participation.
2. The Faculty Academy has occurred after the semester has ended but before commencement (faculty are still on contract and recent teaching experiences are still fresh in their minds).
3. A small committee should coordinate the proposals, scheduling, and logistics of the event (I enjoy being a member of this group).
4. Session formats should be varied (50-minute roundtable discussion, 120-minute poster, 20-minute presentation, 20-minute demonstration, 50-minute panel presentation, 120-minute hands-on training, etc.).
5. Some presentations by staff (IT, Student Services) are appropriate but overall scheduling should emphasize faculty-led presentations focusing on instructional applications of technology.
1. If the event is for faculty it should move from year to year to accommodate them and to highlight various academic areas and environments.
2. The location should be an academic building equipped with one-computer classrooms and computer labs.
3. The event is an opportunity to showcase each campus, since it is hosted at a different campus each year.
4. Technology support must be planned and provided.
1. Having some vendor participation would supplement funding and continue to provide insight to new technologies. Vendor aspect of the event should be de-emphasized as the focus.
2. Meals, proceedings, and brochures announcing the event constitute the expenses. Having participants pre-register and pre-select the meals they plan to attend would reduce expenses. Box lunches might be best if location is an academic building.